A Peek into the English Country House

Longleat House

The English country house is not just any massive structure. It is a symbol of the affluence of Britain's nobility and landed gentry, which for centuries, have dominated British politics. The stories of these country houses follow the rise and fall of the fortunes of England's landed upper class, yet today, they serve as a lasting memory that once upon a time, the wealthy of the years gone by lived lives in magnificent opulence and grandeur that any of today's billionaires can surpass.

In their book The English Country House, James Peill and Julian Fellowes (who gained fame for Downton Abbey) write that England's country houses have been studied throughout the world and have been the subject of numerous books for centuries. Famous authors, Celia Fiennes, Prince Puckler-Muskau, the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen particularly helped fuel the readers' imagination of the typical country house.

With the coming of photography, it has been easier to capture the grandeur of this noble homes. Magazines,like Country Life and landmark publications, like Charles Latharn's In English Homes series and Mark Girouard's Life in the English Country House, most vividly depicted country home glory.

Waddesdon Manor

Country houses were power houses and ownership of a country home manifested the possession not just of hundreds of acres of lands, but tens and hundreds and thousands of them. Almost of the country houses have undergone a series of alterations as it passed on from one generation to another.

The families that own country hours, Peill and Fellowes wrote, belonged in the top tier of nobility to members of the landed gentry. All have been loyal to their sovereigns at various levels, holding different position in the government and the armed forces in their lifetime.

Forde Abbey

The book details the story of how these country houses survived through the twenty-first century. "The agriculture depression toward the end of the nineteenth century combined with crippling taxation, fear of the future, and the devastation of the two world wars, the authors wrote, "dealt a deathblow to many English country houses, particularly those belonging to the English gentry." Before 1914, the gentry owned about half the land of England; today, that class owned barely 1 percent.

Country houses have to adapt to the changing times or else they have to joined the ranks of the nearly one thousand country houses that have been demolished already. Thankfully, the surviving country houses have responded to the changing times in a very innovative manner. Badminton House and Goodwood House, for example, are now associated with the sporting events held there every year. Simply put, the romance that the country house has to offer will never ease and these structures will always evoke a sense of nostalgia every time they are featured on films and TV series or referred to on literary works.

Grab yourself a copy of The English Country House

Find out more about English country houses and stately homes on this long list of books available in Amazon.


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